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In this week’s Friday Five, Maximus is reading about proposed aid to state and local governments, the expiration of unemployment benefits, a drop in vaccination rates, Census data collection, and a shortage in skilled nursing home staff.

1. Revised pandemic relief bill aims to patch state and local budgets

The updated version of the HEROES Act introduced into the House earlier this week includes more than $400 billion in financial support for state, local, and territorial governments. According to StateScoop, this is likely to be Congress’ last attempt to pass a COVID-relief bill prior to the election. The funds are intended to replace lower than expected revenues, as many government organizations have begun scaling back operations or their workforce. It also includes funding for improving broadband access, Wi-fi hotspots, and additional internet-connected devices for schools and libraries.

2. The next cliff for the unemployed 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program is set to expire at the end of 2020. Axios reports more than 11 million people (46% of the total population claiming unemployment benefits) were receiving PUA benefits as of early September. Experts do not anticipate a return to normal work hours or income anytime soon for individuals who may be self-employed or freelance workers, who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits.

3. CMS raises alarm as vaccinations, screenings decline in Medicaid and CHIP due to COVID-19

Fierce Healthcare reports that new data shows large drops in vaccinations, screening services, dental care, and more among Medicaid or CHIP beneficiaries. CMS is encouraging individuals and families to keep up with their preventative visits and vaccinations. 

4. Census Bureau ‘comfortable’ with IT as census response deadline looms 

As the 2020 Census winds down, the Census Bureau expressed satisfaction with its IT operations for data collection. According to FedScoop, the agency feels prepared to test its data processing system despite changes brought about by COVID, including a postponed completion date from June to October. This was the first year the Census Bureau offered the option to respond online, which was popular among respondents.

5. Keeping workers will be biggest struggle for nursing homes as pandemic persists, national policy expert predicts 

Workforce shortages were already a top concern for nursing homes prior to COVID-19. McKnight’s Long-Term Care News reports the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue, as fatigue, lack of PPE, and low pay have caused more individuals to leave the profession. Industry leaders are advocating for Medicaid to increase pay rates for direct caregivers, reform the payment structure, and implement COVID-specific safety and quality recommendations.